Creating a Sense of Spaciousness in a 5-Room Bukit Batok BTO

Wanting to avoid a cookie-cutter BTO look, homeowners Zhi Long and Soo Yin engaged Zu Huai from erstudio, after being impressed by his skills as a designer.

We sat down with the lively pair for a chat and get them to share more with us about their smooth renovation journey.

On their renovation requirements

Soo Ying (SY): We wanted a home that is different from the conventional, formulaic homes which mostly have copy and paste designs. We wanted our home to have a sense of space and also, to be a visual treat.

On finding an interior designer

Zhi Long (ZL): When we went around shopping for designers, we started by looking at their portfolios because we wanted to see whether their style was aligned to what we had in mind.

SY: We came across a lot of designers who are yes-men. They will say “yes” to whatever we want. We didn’t really want a designer like that because we wanted someone who would be able to advise us on the practicality of various designs.

About choosing to work with

Zu Huai from Erstudio

ZL: As a designer, Zu Huai ticked all the right boxes. He was able to draw really well and could even draw things at different angles for us to envision how the design would look like in real life. That really impressed me. He also showed a good understanding of our requirements and was able to propose a design that was not only aesthetically-pleasing but practical. We like his style, which is all about texture.

SY: Zu Huai brought us to his apartment – which was designed by him – so that we could get a good look at his design. That convinced us of his ability as a designer and we knew that we wanted to work with him.

On working with their designer

SY: Zu Huai is a meticulous person. Besides thinking of the design from an aesthetic perspective, he also factored in our requirements and thought about how we would be using the space on a day-to-day basis. For example, he catered the heights of the dish rack and cabinets to our height so it’s easy for us to access them.

ZL: Zu Huai had everything under control during the renovation. He would take photos of the renovation works to let us see the progress of the renovation. We found that quite reassuring.

On space planning

ZL: Zu Huai planned the space in our home really well. For example, I see many homes in which the dining table and chairs are placed very close to the wall. This is something that I don’t really like because it can be pretty claustrophobic. Zu Huai made sure that didn’t happen and planned the space in such a way that it has this sense of spaciousness to it.

On Zu Huai’s most outstanding qualities

ZL: He’s quite a perfectionist. There was one instance when I came by the home and certain works had been done up - a few days later when I visited the place, everything was gone! When I asked Zu Huai about this, he said that the works were not done to his expectations and he had the contractors remove everything and send it back for refabrication. The fact that he did this on his own initiative really assured me that he was taking our renovation very seriously and that he took pride in his work as a designer.

SY: I like that Zu Huai was very open to our suggestions and was able to advise us on whether what we wanted was practical or not. He really walked through all our ideas with us and executed them to the finest detail.

On furniture shopping

SY: Zu Huai went furniture shopping with us. He went down with us to choose our bed frame and shared where we could go to to look for the furniture that we wanted. This was something beyond his responsibility and we definitely appreciated his willingness to go the extra mile.

About their master bathroom

SY: We wanted our master bathroom to feel like a spa and Zu Huai proposed this darker colour scheme for the space to make it look different from the whole house. Even though we can’t do much about the spaciousness of the bathroom, we were able to rely on tiles to achieve the look of a spa.

On the most interesting feature

ZL: This Japanese style concrete wall in our living area! Zu Huai proposed this design which was made popular by a Japanese designer.

SY: It's quite a big wall, and we didn’t want to just paint it. Zu Huai used Performance Coating paint so that it has a nice textured effect.

On their biggest splurge

ZL: Our Phillips Hue lighting. I invested quite a bit in that because it's very practical and convenient; I can go from one room to another and the lights would automatically switch off or on.

On their biggest bargain

SY: The huge potted plant in our living area! We got it from a nursery in Lim Chu Kang. The pot was actually something I saw on Warehouse Hotel’s website and it was a design that I really liked. I wasn’t expecting to be able to find it and I was really very surprised when I came across it at the nursery in Lim Chu Kang!

ZL: The pot cost us $50 which was really such a steal because we went to a lot of other places which sold pots smaller than this for $200 to $300.